Article has no nextliveshere tags assigned

Article has no topics tags assigned

Article has no colleges tags assigned

Description is empty

Article has no audiences tags assigned

Article has no units tags assigned

Contacts are empty

These messages will display in edit mode only.

UC professor aims to improve roadway conditions with pavement research

Munir Nazzal wants pavement to be safe, smart and sustainable

Most people don’t think much about the pavement beneath their vehicle until a problem arises — you hit a pothole that damages your car or you’re stuck in traffic due to road construction or repairs. But University of Cincinnati researcher Munir Nazzal is committed to finding methods to improve the pavement we all utilize daily.

Photo of Munir Nazzal

Munir Nazzal

Nazzal, professor in the Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering and Construction Management, joined UC’s College of Engineering and Applied Science in August 2019. Nazzal, who has a Ph.D. in geotechnical and materials engineering, has focused his research on designing, developing and evaluating new technologies for enhancing performance and safety and also reducing the costs and environmental impacts of transportation infrastructure, including pavements.

“We use pavement every day, and whether those pavements are good or bad affects our life,” Nazzal said. “It’s also related to safety and cost. Having good pavement is important to protect the safety of the traveling public and reduce their costs.” 

The work of Nazzal and his team of researchers demonstrates innovation and UC’s commitment to research as described in its strategic direction Next Lives Here.

Nazzal is working on projects in many facets of pavement research. One notable project underway, funded by a grant from the Ohio Department of Transportation, looks at the unique impact on roadways heavily traveled by Amish horse-pulled buggies. In addition to working to create asphalt mixtures that would better resist damage, Nazzal said they also crafted a new design for horseshoes, testing them to see the impact on both the roadways and the horses. He anticipates the completed project to be of interest to other states that have Amish buggy traffic.

Along with his research team of five graduate students, Nazzal said he is always working on the design and performance testing of new materials or additives to create pavements that are less likely to crack, are more cost effective and are more sustainable than existing products. This often requires looking at materials at the micro scale using nanotechnology techniques. 

Nazzal’s research team is collaborating with chemical engineers at other universities to try and successfully incorporate plastics into asphalt for improved performance. He’s also exploring the use of recycled materials as a component to asphalt mixtures and he’s working with other researchers at UC’s College of Engineering and Applied Science on how drones can be used to control the quality of construction pavements and in pavement assessment and repair activities.

In an era where driverless cars are inching toward the mainstream, creating smart roads should also be top of mind, Nazzal said.

“One important thing that people are not really focusing on is that the pavements should have interaction and communication with those automated vehicles, and we are looking into how we can do that,” he added.

Nazzal recognized early in his career that he didn’t want to repeat the research of others, instead he wanted to create new materials and new approaches to make pavement and other surfaces stronger and safer. While this was a way to differentiate himself from other researchers when he was just starting out, it also keeps him engaged and excited about his work. 

“It was very important for me that there would be some self-satisfaction that I was able to really address issues and solve problems that were not solved before,” Nazzal said.

Nazzal, who came to UC after 10 years at Ohio University, began his career as a senior research scientist at the Louisiana Transportation Research Center before transitioning to academia. He’s published more than 100 peer-reviewed technical papers and reports, including one paper that was nominated for the Transportation Research Board K.B. Wood Award for best paper in design and construction. He serves as associate editor for the ASCE Journal of Materials in Civil Engineering. 

For Nazzal, his research is an asset to his success in teaching. He incorporates the latest trends and technologies into his classes so his students will be prepared for their careers after college. 

“I think whatever you do in research will help you in teaching,” Nazzal said. “You are teaching all the new things that you are doing in your research and therefore students will be learning cutting-edge techniques.” 

Next Lives Here

The Univeristy of Cincinnati is classified as a Research 1 institution by the Carnegie Commission and is ranked in the National Science Foundations's Top-35 public research universities. UC's graduate students and faculty investigate problems and innovate solutions with real-world impact. Next Lives Here.